Since September of 2002, I have written online – at length – about professional wrestling. Over the course of that time, I have written two books, contributed to countless magazines, interviewed hundreds of wrestlers, and appeared on many radio programs.
Also, in that time, I’ve shared very little of my personal life.
This has been by design. I always had an issue with people who overshare or those who overemphasize the importance of what has been shared. Like many reading this, I’ve scrolled through Facebook posts and blog entries while rolling my eyes at the demand for applause and attention. I never wanted to be that.
The few times I have shared personal stories has been to simply inform people and perhaps help those in similar situations. In 2012, following my surprise quintuple bypass, and again in 2016, when writing about my non-verbal son with autism, I shared with the intention of doing good for those reading. I didn’t do it for pity, accolades, or to give anyone “feels”. Ugh. Just writing that made me throw up a little in my mouth.
I guess what bothers me the most about divulging my personal life, especially about my son, is that I didn’t want anyone to misconstrue my reasons for talking about it. Make no mistake. I am not superman. I don’t deserve your tears or slanted sympathetic glance. Having a child with autism doesn’t make me any more than anyone else.
I’m not saying this as false modesty either. What few realize is that by branding parents of those with special needs as “superheroes” borders on insulting.
There’s nothing super about the ability to love Lucas. My five year old boy is more lovable than many grubby little buggers that go running around your local Chuck E Cheese or supermarket. Every morning, he jumps up and down clapping when I get him up for school. Randomly throughout the day, he’ll walk over, tap me on the arm, and give me a kiss on the cheek. I don’t understand why loving a child like that would require some sort of super power.
“But James, many fathers can’t accept when their child has special needs.”
Sure. But that’s not specific to special needs children. That goes for any children. How many dads run out on children regardless of development? Are we going to start referring to all parents as superheroes? If so, does that imply that abandoning or not accepting your kids is the human thing to do? Because it’s not.
This is what a father is supposed to do. I made a child who loves me and I love him back. My daughter, Olivia, is the same way. She loves me and I love her. I don’t go to bed every night patting myself on the back for not running away screaming. I do what I do because I have no other instincts. To do anything else would be awful. No one deserves congratulations for not being awful. If we start doing that, we lower the bar on what it is to be a decent person.
Sure, it can be tough. Being a parent in general is tough. It’s just tough in different ways at different times. A parent might have a perfectly developed five year old…who develops into a criminal 15 years later. Life is full of tragedy and pitfalls. Very few of us escape this planet without some sort of painful reminder than none of us are immune to heartache.
I remind myself of that and remain thankful for everything and everyone around me. No matter who you are, there’s someone else who has it worse than you do. I’m sure somewhere out there is the world’s worst-off person, but I’m not him and I don’t convince myself I am for the sake of self-pity. None of us should. You don’t get any points for being the most miserable one in the room.
So please join me here as I look at my life as a proud father and husband. Just don’t pretend like I’m doing something that most people wouldn’t. Loving your family doesn’t somehow make you superhuman. If anything, it’s the one thing that simply makes you human.